Hayter, Sparkle 1958-
Hayter, Sparkle 1958-
(Sparkle Lynnette Hayter)
Born March, 1958, in Pouce Coupe, British Columbia, Canada; daughter of Ron (a journalist and local politician) and Jac'y (an English teacher and poet) Hayter; divorced, 1993. Education: Attended the University of Alberta; studied film at New York University.
Cable News Network (CNN), New York, NY, and Atlanta, GA, began as intern, became assignment editor, producer, field producer, and writer, early 1980s-86; freelance television correspondent, 1986-94; writer, 1994—. Affiliated with Global Television, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Arthur Ellis Award for best first mystery novel, Crime Writers of Canada, 1994, for What's a Girl Gotta Do?
"ROBIN HUDSON" DETECTIVE SERIES
What's a Girl Gotta Do? Soho (New York, NY), 1994.
Nice Girls Finish Last, Viking (New York, NY), 1996.
Revenge of the Cootie Girls, Viking (New York, NY), 1997.
The Last Manly Man, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1998.
The Chelsea Girl Murders, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2000.
Naked Brunch, Three Rivers Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Bandit Queen Boogie: A Madcap Caper of Two Accidental Criminals, Three Rivers Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor of poetry to literary journals, including Fiddlehead and Quarry, and of articles and opinion pieces to the New York Times, Nation, and Globe and Mail.
Sparkle Hayter is the author of a series of humorous detective novels featuring an attractive, confident, wisecracking amateur detective—a character that Hayter freely admits to using as an alter ego. Her "Robin Hudson" mysteries have won a devoted following of readers and earned enthusiastic reviews for their deft plotting and engaging characters.
Hayter was born in Pouce Coupe, British Columbia, but grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, where her journalist father also became a local politician. Her mother, Jac'y, was a poet and teacher who passed on her love of literature to her daughter. Her parents named her "Sparkle" because of an exuberant personality that made itself known to them even before she emerged into the world. Such a name was considered rather eccentric, to say the least, in the staid Canadian prairie city where she was raised, and Hayter sometimes resorted to using her more conventional middle name, Lynnette, to escape teasing.
An avid reader, Hayter also wrote from an early age, and had her poetry published in Canadian literary journals when she was still in high school. She enrolled in the University of Alberta, but on a jaunt with a friend to New York City in 1979, decided to transfer to New York University for its prestigious film studies course. Within a few years, she found work with the fledgling Cable News Network (CNN), and eventually rose to become a producer and news writer there. Her experiences with the network would provide much of the comic fodder for Robin Hudson and her exasperating bosses and coworkers inside the news business.
It was an actual life-threatening event that spurred the creation of Hayter's appealing heroine. While working in Atlanta one night in 1983, Hayter was accosted on a dark, empty street by a man who attempted to sexually assault her. She fought back with an umbrella, but the trauma triggered an almost transcendent experience in which she conceived an alter ego in contrast to what she calls her standard "nice Canadian girl" persona.
Hayter took a preliminary stab at detective fiction starring a prototype of the Hudson character while traveling through India. On the trip, she ran out of reading material, so she penned a story about the slaying of a large number of characters with comically obnoxious personalities—based on people that Hayter actually knew and disliked. It went unpublished, but after an arduous time spent working as a freelance journalist in war-torn Afghanistan, she returned to New York and ventured into stand-up comedy to defeat her innate fear of public performance. Writing and gleaning responses to her jokes sharpened Hayter's comic timing, which she found translated quite well into scripting characters and plots on the page. She retooled that first story as a Robin Hudson mystery, sent it out to publishers and agents, and endured several dozen rejections before What's a Girl Gotta Do? was published by Soho Press.
What's a Girl Gotta Do? won Hayter the Arthur Ellis Award for best first mystery novel from Crime Writers of Canada that same year. Halter's alter ego, Robin Hudson, is introduced as an All News Network on-air journalist, a vivacious, smart, funny redhead whose marriage to a colleague is on the rocks. She spots her husband romancing a younger female colleague at a holiday work party, and Hudson's ego is already a bit shattered due to a recent demotion after she infamously burped into a live microphone at a White House press conference. At the fancy hotel party, someone slips her a note that hints about the findings of a private investigator, and if interested, she can find out more at Room 13D. Hudson arrives at the door, but no one answers; when the man inside is later found murdered, she becomes the prime suspect.
Hudson is forced to solve her way out of this predicament, and the plot spins around her estranged husband's new love, a break-in at her apartment, and several other coworkers with secrets to hide. What's a Girl Gotta Do? was reviewed enthusiastically by Washington Post Book World writer Stephen Stark. "This is a mystery where you wait on the edge of your seat not for the next murder, but for the next thing Robin is going to say," Stark declared. Other critiques commended the indomitable, endearing heroine, as well as the behind-the-scenes glimpse of a powerful television news network. "Not only has Hayter created a good screwball plot, with loads of characters you love to hate, but she has a genuine gift for the odd turn of phrase," declared Belles Lettres reviewer Bettina Berch. A Booklist critic faulted the first-time author's style, but conceded that the novel had other attributes. "This is not the most literate mystery," remarked Emily Melton, "but it's cute and funny and gutsy and entertaining."
Hayter won a contract with Viking to write several more Robin Hudson mysteries. Her quirky telejournalist heroine returned with Nice Girls Finish Last. Freshly divorced and cautiously dating, Hudson is perplexed by mounting evidence that someone seems to be trying to kill the men with whom she has had dates. Inter-office troubles at the All News Network conspire to make her workday traumatic as well. When her gynecologist is found dead and evidence links him to an S&M club in the city, Hudson is assigned to the story, though she is disheartened by the sensationalist angle that her boss demands. Meanwhile, Hudson's religious aunt is visiting her in the city, and Hudson is forced to maintain a certain demure appearance while investigating the New York area's sexual underworld. The mishap-filled manner in which the murder mystery and her personal life intersect brings the plot to a close. The book is "sassy and bright, with real laughs at the end of the funny lines," remarked a Kirkus Reviews reviewer of Nice Girls Finish Last. A Publishers Weekly reviewer stated that the author "has a splendid time spoofing egos on both sides of the camera."
Revenge of the Cootie Girls is Hayter's third Robin Hudson mystery. Once again, she sets the work in her adopted home, New York City, and peoples Robin's life with an eccentric secondary cast of coworkers and friends. The plot starts off with an invitation to a Halloween scavenger hunt, and the news correspondent brings along several of her equally iconoclastic female friends to help; mixed into the night's festivities is their search for Hudson's suddenly missing intern. The clues to her whereabouts, naturally, merge with those of the scavenger hunt—but as Hudson and her friends take part, she realizes that she is revisiting all of the same places that she so memorably encountered on her very first visit to Manhattan in 1979 with her old friend Julie. Here, Hudson draws upon her own comic mishaps from her first visit, when she and her Edmonton friend met two men who turned out to be involved in organized crime. Hudson's character is also drawn back into her problematic adolescence in Minnesota, during which she suffered the taunts of her classmates as a "cootie girl"—as did all her friends. In the end, Hudson and her posse solve the mystery and break up a money laundering racket in the process. Commenting upon its memory-laden subplot, a Publishers Weekly reviewer called it a "bittersweet but lively romp."
The complex plot of The Last Manly Man includes a drug that enhances sexual potency, radical vegan activists, Hudson's most recent assignment for a "Man of the Future" news report, and chimpanzee research. Hudson's personal life—especially her dating travails—also figure comically into the plot, especially when she discovers that someone in New York is impersonating her. Again, Hayter earned positive reviews for the depiction of her memorable alter ego and the quick-paced plot. Reviewing The Last Manly Man for Quill & Quire, Lynn Crosbie called it "a smooth and enjoyable read, densely plotted, and highly eventful…. The book is amusing, if graspingly so at times, and endearingly sex-centered." A New York Times Book Review assessment from crime reviewer Marilyn Stasio faulted what she termed Hayter's excessive use of humor, though she found in her characterization of modern New York life "just the right dash of caustic wit."
Hayter branched out with Naked Brunch, a stand-alone horror novel with a comic touch. Secretary Annie Engel does not remember tearing out the throats of businessmen until confronted by Marco Potenza, who tells her she is a werewolf. Meanwhile, Annie has fallen in love with Jim, another werewolf, who warns her about Marco, as Marco does about Jim. Booklist contributor Kristine Huntley wrote: "Hayter mixes chick lit … and mystery … with dark fantasy for a jolly good romp."
Hayter's next novel, Bandit Queen Boogie: A Madcap Caper of Two Accidental Criminals, is a comic mystery in which blonde Chloe Bowen and Blackie Maher, a tattooed brunette, finish college and head out on a road trip to Italy. As they travel they attract an ongoing number of married men who proposition them. Chloe and Blackie subsequently rip them off after drugging them when they return to their hotel rooms. They go too far, however, when they steal a statue of the Hindu god Ganesh. Other characters include a coke-snorting heiress, depressed newspaperman, and an Indian mob family. In a Booklist review, Jenny McLarin commented that Hayter's stories work well not only because of the plots and characters she creates "but because she does so in a dry, straight-faced prose style that makes it all the funnier."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Heising, Wilmetta L., Detecting Women 2: A Reader's Guide and Checklist for Mystery Series Written by Women, Purple Moon Press (Dearborn, MI), 1996.
Belles Lettres, spring, 1994, Bettina Berch, review of What's a Girl Gotta Do?, p. 70.
Booklist, May 1, 2003, Kristine Huntley, review of Naked Brunch, p. 1585; June 1, 2004, Jenny McLarin, review of Bandit Queen Boogie: A Madcap Caper of Two Accidental Criminals, p. 1707.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 1996, review of Nice Girls Finish Last, p. 26; February 1, 1997, review of Revenge of the Cootie Girls, p. 175; June 1, 2004, review of Bandit Queen Boogie, p. 509.
Library Journal, January, 1996, Rex E. Klett, review of Nice Girls Finish Last, p. 148; July, 2004, Karen Core, review of Bandit Queen Boogie, p. 70.
New York Times Book Review, August 2, 1998, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Last Manly Man, p. 24.
Publishers Weekly, January 15, 1996, review of Nice Girls Finish Last, p. 449; January 20, 1997, review of Revenge of the Cootie Girls, p. 396.
Quill & Quire, July, 1998, Lynn Crosbie, review of The Last Manly Man, p. 37.
Washington Post Book World, February 6, 1994, Stephen Stark, review of What's a Girl Gotta Do?, p. 4.
Beatrice.com,http://www.beatrice.com/ (December 29, 2006), Ron Hogan, interview.
January Online,http://www.januarymagazine.com/ (December 29, 2006), Newton Love and Delphine Cingal, "Sparkle Hayter Finishes First" (interview).
Mystery One Bookstore,http://www.mysteryone.com/ (December 29, 2006), Jon Jordan, "Interview with Sparkle Hayter."
No Exit Press,http://www.noexit.co.uk/ (December 29, 2006), biography.
Richmond Review,http://www.richmondreview.co.uk/ (December 29, 2006), Victoria Williams, review of Nice Girls Finish Last.
Sparkle Hayter Home Page,http://www.sparklehayter.com (December 29, 2006).